Just about everything during the summer is better topless. That includes the redesigned Camaro with its convertible option. Add in the surprisingly potent mid-range engine and transmission choice and this car is good times on four wheels.
American muscle cars are an interesting breed. Until recently, they were sometimes scoffed at by those outside of North America as being crude, muscle bound machines with little to offer but brute force. That's changing, however, as these Detroit machines become more and more sophisticated with cars like the Chevrolet Corvette winning international awards for its excellence. The Camaro is the smaller, more affordable, and definitely more powerful-looking brother to the 'Vette. This car was originally made to compete with the Ford Mustang in the "pony car" arena.
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Fast-forward to 2016 and you have a stylish new offering that evokes the muscle of the past without getting too brutish about it. Some muscle car fanatics might scoff at the idea of a V6 being the best option for an American pony car like this, but there's a lot to be said for the updated six-cylinder engine now powering the mid-range 2016 Camaro. This new engine has improved output to 335 horsepower (250 kW) and 284 pound-feet (385 Nm) of torque. For comparison, the first-generation Camaro in its most collectible Z/28 packaging had a 4.9-liter V8 that was rated at 290 horsepower (216 kW), but actually hit 360 hp (268 kW) at peak RPM. Those numbers mean that a natural V6 utilizing no turbocharging is cranking out about the same amount of power that a big carbureted V8 gas guzzler did back in 1967. That's impressive.
The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro with the V6 powerplant is factory rated at 5.2 seconds in the 0-60 mph sprint (0-97 km/h). In the real world, we pegged the slightly heavier convertible model on public roads at 5.6-second 0-60 times. A 1967 Z/28 would require about 8 seconds on a track to get to 60 mph.
To be clear, we're not implying that the modern Camaro is better than the original performance model of the car. That collector's item is sought after for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is its excellence for the period. The point is that advances in powertrain technology over that 50 years have delivered a modern V6-powered Camaro that is at least equivalent to the best of the best from the first year of production for the model. For the buyer, it also means that today's US$38,000 Camaro Convertible is definitely not a slouch.
Much else has improved with the 2016 Camaro. Compared to the previous generation of the car, this new Camaro has a more sophisticated exterior look and a far better interior experience. On the outside, the 2016 Chevy Camaro gains a more substantial front end and fascia to give it a more track-ready appearance and to de-emphasize the hind quarters a bit. This gives the Camaro a more balanced look overall, and makes way for classier bodywork and peering headlamps. The Camaro still evokes a sense of power and speed, but now does so with more finesse.
Inside, the Camaro's interior is much more upscale and comfortable. Materials quality appears higher throughout and seating is now more comfortable for everyday use. Bolsters are done just right, even for the big and tall, and the front seats have a little more head and shoulder room than before. The back seats are mostly for groceries or the dog, but children in boosters will fit just fine and enjoy the ride.
The dashboard has undergone a complete overhaul for 2016, with instruments now in a single bezel with a less complicated look. This makes them easier to read. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a boon for taller folks who like a lower wheel and the removal of many of the climate control buttons from the dash simplifies its layout. Control of the fan speed and temperature is now relegated to a smart dial set into the outer rim of the central air vents, which is both surprisingly intuitive and less distracting to use.
The base 1LT package, which we drove, includes a 7-inch touchscreen with the newest Chevrolet MyLink interface. This includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and a six-speaker sound system. Chevrolet's OnStar with 4G LTE WiFi is also standard equipment, though it does require a subscription. A Technology package upgrade increases the screen to 8 inches and adds voice controls and a Bose audio system.
Our test vehicle also had the RS appearance package upgrade as well as the exhaust package upgrade to go with the V6, adding a little more rumble to the pipes. The window sticker ("Monroney") read about US$38,800 delivered.
Amazingly, this car that is capable of sub-6 0-60 times has great fuel economy ratings for the class. The V6 with the manual transmission, as we drove it, is EPA rated at 21 mpg combined, with 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway (11.2, 13 and 8.7 l/100km). In testing, we were close to that at about 19.5 mpg combined (12 l/100km), which included our performance runs as well as a good mix of in town and highway driving for about 350 miles in all.
This is just the start of the improvements. Out on the open highway and on the occasional closed-circuit or track run, this new Camaro really shows itself well. The last-generation Camaro was sluggish and heavy on the corners. Chevrolet has completely redesigned the chassis to be lighter and more responsive, and that shows. The 2016 Camaro corners very well and accelerates beautifully. Our 90-degree two-lane test turn can be done at 66 mph without tire squeals. That's slightly better than the Ford Mustang GT and far better than the Dodge Challenger R/T. That's with the top down. We suspect that the coupe model would be a mile or two faster.
In all, Chevrolet has really got something with the 2016 Camaro. The redesign is very well done and feels good on the road. As an everyday driver with weekend fun runs ready to be had, the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible is a great choice. The V6, once the sluggish "cheap option" for the American muscle car, is now a solid choice for most buyers. Sometimes, change is good.Product Page: Chevrolet Camaro View gallery - 8 images